Why we left LDS Scouting

This post is a response to GDub’s comment here.

When I was teenager, we  had a Stake President who had a testimony of scouting.  Because of this man, our ward’s troop was an LDS scouter’s dream. The Stake President appealed to the competitive nature of men, His system was for every 11-year-old scout’s Dad, to be called as an assistant scoutmaster or troop committee member. From that pool of men, a new scoutmaster was chosen every few years. The scoutmaster then graduated to the Bishopric, high council, or stake presidency. Because of this system, the troop had a large pool of  top-notch assistant scoutmasters to work with! As a kid, I assumed all LDS troops operated in this fashion.

Our family’s LDS scout experience was a mixed bag. For the successes please see Tex’s post here. What Tex posted was remembering the positive blessings our family experienced. There were also tremendous challenges we faced and endured sometimes well and other times not so much. What kept us going, was Mike who had a strong, enduring, tenacious, testimony of scouting. He believed with all his heart LDS Scouting, done correctly, turned a boy into a valiant Priesthood holder. Ironically he also had a big heart for the fatherless.

When Tex was a Webelos scout, Mike stepped in to help a weak cub program. This is the key Dads,  IF the program is struggling,  you must step in and help. Usually, if you express a desire to serve in scouting, you will get your wish. Despite the challenges in the cub program, this ward had a great LDS Boy Scouting  program. We were fortunate to have an outstanding experienced  11-year-old scout leader, with Mike as an assistant, who taught Mike how to run a proper patrol. Mike also received official district scoutmaster training. This ward had a dedicated scoutmaster, who was a father of a scout. More  importantly, the scouting program in this ward worked, because the fathers wanted to be with their sons, help the fatherless, and work together; without petty competition to achieve rank advancements.

Then the ward split, and we found ourselves in a completely different situation. Our new ward had the same demographics as the previous ward. Remember, in order for a scout program to be successful you have to have involved fathers and for those fathers to help the fatherless. Mike was thrilled to be called to be scoutmaster along with a dedicated 11-year-old scout leader, who was not the father of any of the boys. Our troop consisted of a large group of  scouts, several who had serious discipline problems; and not one Dad who was committed enough to help with camp outs or manage the discipline problems that arose. Mike had the added responsibility of three boys without fathers; one of the fatherless boys was autistic. Because this boy needed one-on-one attention, because the other boys were so difficult, and because no other man stepped up to help, Tex (who was the same age as the autistic boy) was assigned to not let this boy get hurt or lost.  The other men in the ward regarded scouting as baby-sitting and would not, no matter how hard we pled for them to accompany their son, and help with the program. Mike had a series of young married men, one at a time, as assistants, but because the discouraging lack of support, they did not last long. Because none of the other fathers would agree to go, but left their boy(s) to be taken on a campout the young assistant scoutmaster would drive my SUV and Mike would drive his truck so he could transport everyone. This left me without a vehicle for a couple of days.  One of the fathers, instead of coming on camp outs, sent an employee (not BSA trained, nor a father of a boy) to manage his unruly sons. The boys mocked this poor guy and called him “man servant”.  He soon quit.

When Piano Man turned 11, Mike became the 11-year-old leader. We held it at our house two Saturdays a month and had a wonderful experience teaching the young scouts the basics of camping, knot tying, first aid and other skills.  My sons enjoyed another great scoutmaster for a couple of years after their dad was released, as the 12 and up scoutmaster. After this scoutmaster left,  the older boy’s  program went down hill as meritbadge classes turned into “read the book to the boys and give them the badge”.  Camping became  “food is brought in from a local fast food place” a couple of times a year, rather than a variety of camping experiences 10 times or so year needed  to fulfill the requirements.

We did not give up and did not cave into this shoddy excuse for a program. We did not want our sons to learn cheating, lying, and doing a job half way was acceptable in the church, or out of it. So we turned to our council’s resources for the remainder of our sons’ scouting experiences.  One huge help was both boys got a job at summer scout camp. On their time off, they took merit badge classes offered. They attended meritbadge universities. They went to Philmont and high adventure trips with other troops and Piano Man served on our Council’s OA Board.

To be honest the current state of our ward’s troop is still dismal. I have watched over the past year as 11 year olds are dropped off at the church excited to participate and no leader shows up. Largely left unsupervised, the  11 year olds think it’s  great fun to run loose in the gym for an hour. I have witnessed when boys are left to supervise themselves, “Lord of the Flies” happens. Dads, if this is your son’s scouting experience; get involved!  Don’t just dump them off and drive away !

The older boys continue to advance to Eagle without fulfilling the requirements. The last straw was when my son Flash, a new 11 year old scout, was told by the scoutmaster at his crossing over ceremony,  he could not go camping unless his dad came. I call this rubbing salt into the wounds of a sad little boy who will not have the opportunity to be a scout with his Dad.

SO what did I do, as a widowed mother who has a testimony of  LDS scouting?  We joined another troop, an awesome non-LDS troop!!

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About JA Benson

Joanna entered the world as a BYU baby. Continuing family tradition, she graduated BYU with a degree in Elementary Education and taught for several years. Growing up in Salt Lake County, her favorite childhood hobbies were visiting cemeteries and eavesdropping on adult conversations. Her ancestral DNA is multi-ethnic and she is Mormon pioneer stock on every familial line. Joanna resides in the Southeastern USA with her five children ranging in age from 8 to 24. Her husband passed away in 2009. She is an avid reader and a student of history. Her current intellectual obsession is Sephardic Jewish history, influence and genealogy. She served as a board member for her local chapter of Families with Children from China. She is the author of “DNA Mormons?” Summer Sunstone 2007 http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2007/04/dna-mormons/ and “Becoming Hong Mei`s Mother” in the Winter Sunstone 2009 http://theredbrickstore.com/sunstone/becoming-hong-meis-mother/.

49 thoughts on “Why we left LDS Scouting

  1. Joanna, it sounds like Scouting is like any other mostly volunteer effort: it depends on the quality of people involved, the organization and dedication they put into it, and the involvement of parents. Teachers have long known that the best students usually come from homes where parents are involved — the same should apply to Scouts. We are lucky that our ward has a large group of parents who are very involved, and leadership that is dedicated.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this.

    Did the leader not know that Flash’s dad has passed away? Seems like that is something that should be well known by leadership and passed on to involved parties. I’m so sorry Flash!

    I kind of mentioned in my other comment on Tex’s post, that even though I come froma BIG scouting family, my brothers were often left in the dust — love my dad, but he was always busy with everyone else’s ward’s programs, kid’s projects and so on, and they did not enjoy scouting. My husband also was not really mentored properly by scout leaders. I’m sure if my FIL had not been tied up in his own church calling he would have helped more.

    I’ve always felt that if the Dad’s were more involved and trained scouting would be a better program. However, I think many times in the Church parents see the programs as a free baby sitting service and feel no need to carry the things that are learned at scouts or YW, or a primary activity over into the home, or have any sort of expations for their kids when they are at a scout/YW etc. activity.

    One thing that happenes here in New Mexico, is that when a new person is given a scout calling in our ward, he or she is not sustained in Church and is not allowed to do their calling till they have receieved all the training the BSA requires a scout leader to have. That change made me feel a bit better about how scouts is run. I know from listening to my dad talk about scouts in the Church that because of how our organization is structured and run, sometimes the requirements of scouting are not met and you have people who are not trained, don’t know who to report to etc. I know for a fact that sometimes as well, the LDS church leaders try to skirt the rules of scouting for their own agendas, putting the boys, the leaders and everyone at great risk. (The story is long, but in my parents stake serious legal issues were raised in regard to a scout activity that did not get council approval to go forward, but was carried out anyway).

    My husband and I have already decided that no matter what one of us will be at scouts, waiting quietly in the foyer of the church, and on every overnight activity….to make sure no one gets hurt, mamed or killed and that general stupdidity does not ruin a good thing.

  4. How ironic, in this month’s Ensign there’s an article titled,” The strength of Scouting.”

  5. Some of the experiences of your boys were definitely similar to my own. The difference did seem to be having leaders who took their calling seriously. I saw the lack of calling the more able and qualified men of the ward to these callings as a sign that scouting wasn’t important. I now see that this was a huge mistake by the leadership.

    All I can do, in my position now, is not be one fo those people and, instead, act as an advocate for doing it the right way. Thanks for showing that to all of us.

  6. Wow! You take a kid to the dr. and a conversation happens!

    Geoff- I am glad scouting works in your ward. I think this is an important sign of a healthy ward. Your comment is spot on.

    Joyce- Yes, he knew Mike had died. Flash is the only fatherless boy in our ward and for some/most men this exception just does not enter their head. They are using this an excuse to not work out the problem. Funny thing is, Flash crossed over the end of October and no one has even checked to see why he has not gone to one meeting. The good news is, while the rest of them are running wild in the gym, Flash almost has his Tenderfoot 🙂 THe church’s scouting manual has something about getting fathers to attend on younger boys camping activities. This is two fold: 1) to get the fathers involved and 2) to protect a young scout. MIke found ways to work around this. For example, we learned from sad experience you do not send your son on a camping trip to sleep in the tent with a large group of older/bigger boys i.e. “Lord of the Flies”. You buy him a two man tent for just him, and maybe one other kid, or just him and his gear. Problem solved.

    Sounds like things are run well in New Mexico! Good idea on sticking close. Your husband may gain a love for scouts while doing it with your son, Mike sure did, and two of my boys have some wonderful memories.

    Thank you dblock- Flash is ok. The new troop is so loving to him. Some of the men knew Mike and the rest have taken him under their wing.

  7. Joanna, I am so sorry no one has noticed Flash’s absence in the troop.

    And you really nailed my overall concern right on the head: Lord of the Flies. I’ve been down at our building on Weds nites and seen it up close and personal. I know things have gotten better. My brothers also experienced Lord of the Flies to an extent…

    I hope that we can learn to love scouting in our family, I really do, and we’re ready and willing to be involved, and well, I’ve never been shy when I see a problem, so I’m sure whoever the scoutmasters are when my son gets that age will be plenty sick of me.

  8. Ok, what I should hav said, was “things have gotten better as bishoprics have changed and new bishops have set a better tone.”

  9. Scouting is a wonderful program. I am an Eagle Scout. I had a good scouting program in the 1980s. However, we could have gone camping and hiking more.

    My father was involved in the Scouting program for many years. He went to national jamborees. He even went to a world jamboree in England (1950s). He graduated from BYU with a degree in Youth Leadership– Scouting. His was the first group that graduated with the BYU Scouting program. He was a district field executive for a few years on the east coast.

    He had a top scouting troop in Tempe, AZ in the 1960s. He was known as Mr Scouter. Back in those days, the church ranked LDS scout troops each year. One year, the troop was #7. The next, it was #1. They traveled to SLC for the award. The boys has no idea. They thought they were just going to scout summer camp in Utah. He had a troop of around 50 boys. The key to his success was his youth leaders. It was a troop that had more non-LDS boys that LDS boys.

    It seems like many scouting programs in the church today are just LDS boys and the scouting and the Priesthood activities are not separated. The Senior Patrol Leader is the Deacon’s Quorum President. Scout leaders should be elected by the scouts.

    With a format of Youth Priesthood Leaders as the youth scout leaders, a non-LDS boy doesn’t have a chance on being a youth leader. There was a non-LDS boy in my scout troop in the 1980s. The youth scout leaders and the Aaronic Priesthood leaders were separate, and that is how it should be. The troop should be sponsored by the ward and should find non-LDS boys.

    Here is what happened in Snowflake, AZ when I lived there: the youth scout leaders were the Aaaronic Priesthood leaders. The 2nd Counselor in the YM presidency was the Deacon’s Quorum Advisor and the 1st Counselor in the YM Presidency was the Teacher’s Quorum Advisor. Both the YM and YW youth presidencies were changed every 6 months– January and July; to give the youth an opportunity to serve.

    What do you think? Should the Deecon’s Quorum President also be the Senior Patrol Leader, etc.?

  10. We talk a lot about leaders, but a huge issue is money. It is not obvious how to run a proper program within the financial framework of the church, and the church leadership is not helpful in figuring it out. When they address scouting, it is always from the 30,000 foot perspective of creating missionaries and fathers. How to carry out several camping trips a year, within the ward budget and without any expense to families or fundraising, is left for each scoutmaster to scratch his head trying to figure it out himself. We shouldn’t be too surprised if any assume they are supposed to carry out a minimal program that doesn’t do much.

  11. I believe Scouting should be done the scouting way and that would be that the scouts elect their own leaders. But elections within a ward? Hindenburg on the horizon. My son goes to a Non-LDS troop so he can experience Scouting at its highest level of performance. Our ward troop does not meet even minimum expectations. One of the biggest reasons why the ward troop fails, in my opinion, is the lack of trained leadership and perhaps just as important, enough support for the Scoutmaster.

    For Scouting to be truly successful, those serving as Assistant Scoutmasters in the organization need that proper training (such as Joyce mentioned is happening in her area of New Mexico – Hurrah!) and this should be standard throughout the church where scouting takes place.

    I also strongly feel that there should be more men called to serve in that program. Perhaps the viewpoint should be more of one similar to Home Teaching / Visiting Teaching, only if you have a son of age who is participating in the program, you are an assistant to the Scoutmaster and will be spending some quality time there doing the most important work you will ever be called to do (in the family). If enough men did this, the Scoutmaster would not be as burdened, and even though these men might have other callings, the workload would be evenly distributed. Unless it is a badly functioning ward, such as JA experienced. I’m not saying only fathers of boys should be called to a ward troop. There are several individuals I know who have served when their sons were long past the age, or too young, or they didn’t even have sons, but they themselves were wonderful additions to a ward troop. Bring on the men and make your ward troop a priority! In my son’s current troop there are more men (and some women) registered to assist than I can name.

    Lastly, I feel Scouting in the church needs to be a long term calling, similar if not longer, than that of a calling in a bishopric or stake presidency. If a boy enters in at 11 or 12 and will be there until 18, he should not suffer the ill-effects of 2 or 3 Scoutmasters in training. I understand not all wards have inexperienced men accepting this call, but if you are unfortunate to have green Scoutmasters back to back when your son(s) were in the program, you will understand why the need is there to have a better program in place as a standard. Instead there should be a system, an orderly method, whereby a troop develops and trains leaders to rise in succession within the ward, thus maintaining troop morale, uniformity, and productivity. In this way, boys will see a fine example set for them during the years as they pass through the teens and prepare for a mission. Give him Steady and True, not a series of stops and starts and mixed messages. He is about to begin what is undoubtedly a most important phase of his life.

  12. @ John

    In addition, to what you stated, I think there needs to be way to fund Young W omen’s program to get the same amount of money and attention that the scouting program in the church does. I know of several instances where the young women were asked to bake cookies and have a sale to support the boy camp. Yuck.

  13. As a former Scoutmaster and current COR, I agree with John that money is an important resource. However, I think money comes when you have strong parental involvement.

    As a young scout I enjoyed going on outings and earning merit badges, but I never really advanced in rank because I wasn’t self-motivated. Although my parents came to scout meetings and events, they were fairly indifferent about the program. With church callings and the pressures of providing for and raising a large family with seven children, scouting wasn’t a high priority. Mom and Dad split when I was 16, but this doesn’t really factor into the equation because Dad was not a motivating factor in my scouting life anyway.

    My point is this — kids are not intrinsically motivated, so you have to either rely on parents, scout leaders, or both. Both seems to be the best bet, but my experience is that parents rely too much on scout leaders to teach their sons to become “men.” Believe it or not, your kids are not the scout leaders’ top priority in their lives. They are unpaid volunteers who have good intentions and are trying to serve, but oftentimes they come up short. I empathize with the single mothers who struggle in a program where their adult leaders are less than stellar. That said, I think it’s naive to think scout leaders are acceptable substitute father figures. I believe the most important life lessons are learned in the home (including how to grow strong men/fathers), so if there’s no father at home, mothers have to get creative. You can have excellent adult leaders and a strong Scouting program in general, but without strong parental support it doesn’t really mean anything. I believe the success or failure of the Scouting program and its objectives starts and ends in the home.

  14. Re: elections and callings.

    A former scout leader who moved into our ward made the following suggestion to me when I was varsity coach (the 14-16 year scout program). He suggested that I have a secret ballot, with each boy writing on a piece of paper who he though should serve in each position on the varsity team. We then tabulated the results, and presented them to the bishop as our recommendations. He signed off on the recommendations (with one minor change), and we presented them to the team to be “sustained.” It seemed like a nice compromise between scouting’s “election” tradition and the Church’s “calling” tradition.

  15. “As a former Scoutmaster and current COR, I agree with John that money is an important resource. However, I think money comes when you have strong parental involvement.”

    Skaught, thanks for your comment. I suppose what you mean here is that with strong parental involvement, the church’s restrictions on activities that involve costs to the participants can be winked at because the parents want the activities to happen and are willing to support them financially, either with cash or in-kind.

  16. Bill- thank you for your thoughtful comment. I agree with you. Would it not be a wonderful thing for the LDS church to be the go-to-place for quality scouting? What a wonderful way to spread good will in our communities.

    John- I can only speak for what I know. I see a laziness issue is more than a money issue. We belong to a fabulous council with fantastic natural resources. For example, you can rent a canoe, thru the council on the Buffalo River, for $10.00 for a full day, per person. Rappelling equipment is also available to rent, for a similar cost. A minimal cost to rent a campsite, and each boy brings food to share. If every one takes turns with transportation, the cost gets passed around. As far as equipment, give for birthday and Christmas gifts. If there is a need: hand-me-downs, donations, and last, but not least fast offerings.

    CiCi AMEN and AMEN!

    dblock- I hope that is not a wide spread problem in the church. I have not seen the girls ever pay for the boys activities in our ward. IN fact, I believe each kid should earn their own way. That is another way to teach responsibility.

    Skaught- “I think money comes when you have strong parental involvement.” Nail. on. the. head. People will find money for the things they value.
    “my experience is that parents rely too much on scout leaders to teach their sons to become “men.” AMEN!
    Believe it or not, your kids are not the scout leaders’ top priority in their lives.” Exactly! As a parent YOU are responsible for your kids. Yo are the ones who are sealed to them, You are responsible for their future. DO not trust others to do your job. Dude, I have copied your comment and it is taped to my mirror. Thank you.

    David H- That is an excellent suggestion.

    John- You get what you pay for. What you value, you find the money.

  17. J.A., minimal is not the same as zero. A typical ward budget is also minimal and would allow perhaps two of those minimal $10-20 per person outdoor activities.

  18. John – Right. With four boys in scouts, our family has to make up for any budget shortfalls, but we’re happy to do so because our boys are the primary recipients. Unfortunately, our troop has not mastered the art of fundraising.

    JA – I wish we had the luxury of taking our children out of our LDS troop/pack(16-yr-old Eagle Scout, 14-yr-old Life Scout, 12-yr-old Tenderfoot, 8-yr-old Cub). Alas, that would gut our tiny little program and leave them with nothing. Then everyone would blame us for its failure.

  19. I missed your second comment to me, J.A. You seem to have missed the instruction that we can’t just go ahead and pay for church activities that we value. Trying to finangle a way to do so is something Elder Packer has told us to repent of.

  20. From the Church Handbook of Instructions, 13.2.8:

    Stake and ward budget funds should be used to pay for all activities, programs, and supplies. Members should not pay fees to participate. Nor should they provide materials, supplies, rental or admission fees, or long-distance transportation at their own expense. Activities in which members provide food may be held if doing so does not place undue burdens on them.

    Elder Packer in Conference when the Local Unit Budget Allowance was introduced:

    We have also heard of some very clever inventions calculated to circumvent the instructions and maintain some of the expensive, even extravagant, activities to which we have become accustomed.

    Those resourceful souls will have cause to repent once they understand the spirit of the decision. Those clever practices will soon fade as you learn the purpose for it all.

  21. John- that is about all we did of those kind of activities. We practiced with the one canoe we borrowed in a swimming pool to teach the boys how to paddle and then passed them off. OUr local YMCA has a climbing wall. Everyone one with a membership is allowed a visitor, we managed to get everyone in, and they were shown the ropes, so to speak. Qualifying boys passed the MB off on the trip. Some, like my boys, took a couple of years to do it. Lots of camping and hiking trips, shooting trips with our guns, and the boys bringing their own ammo. For pioneering MB we collected dead Christmas trees stripped of the branches and taught them how to lash them together to build a tower. One fun activity, was Emergency Prep, Piano Man was notorious when he was little for going into the woods in back of our house. We staged a “rescue” and looking for clues they “found” him! I tell it is a lot of work for only a couple of old guys! Camp was over $100 dollars per boy and that was our only fund raiser. Nothing we did was over the top extravagant. We were resourceful but we did spend thousand of our own money for the troop. In the temple we promise to to build the kingdom. I know I can stand blameless before God on this issue, cause we sacrificed a lot, and I am done.

    I know there is a reason for the rules. Extravagant was my parents “required” to pay more in ward budget than tithing in the 1970’s. Youth trips to California and Peru. What we did was resourceful. IF we did wrong, then by all means I hope the church lets go of scouting and only does DTG. There are 12 required MBadges, and camping ( with 21 campouts) is one of them.

    Skaught – Don’t you dare leave! I have a testimony of LDS scouting, but with my husband gone I cannot be the 11 year old leader, or the scoutmaster. Your ward needs you. No one misses us. Mike was a wonderful scoutmaster and have would have done the same for Flash as he did for the older boys. You can always supplement. See if your Council has Council trips we took advantage of those opportunities and sent my boys on high adventure trips and to Philmont.

  22. JA, in case there’s some misunderstanding on this point, you’re not the only one who cares about the kingdom of God. You’re not the only who has followed through on covenants to devote resources to it.

  23. So much of scouting is an anchronism. But regarding uninvolved LDS fathers, could much of it be for a single pay check family, the breadwinner typical needs to work the equivalent of two jobs these days to make up for what one job used to pay decades ago? And for the two paycheck family, the man now does much of the housework? Either way, there’s just less time for service. As the USA economy has chnaged over the decades, perhaps the church hasn’t kept up with the times?

  24. Some what you say is true straight talker, but you still have to parent your boy and teach him to be a man. While you are doing this include a fatherless boy to help him. At this time, I believe scouting to be the best thing for young men. As for what i personally witnessed, not enough money was not a problem for most of our ward. In fact, the less affluent fathers were the most involved in the troop we belonged to before the split.

  25. I applaud you voting with your feet and I hope that you told the ward along with the Bishop why you went to a community troop. It is sad the shape of the Scouting program in the Church at times. As a Varsity Coach myself, I still see parents merely using the Scouting program as a babysitting program.

  26. Chad- I don’t think my solution is for most people. I do not have a choice, as I am not able to be a scoutmaster. 🙂 Our bishop is new and new to our ward. He probably does not know who I am. Nobody has missed us yet. As incredible as it may seem, my obnoxious behavior on the internet, is not how I am in real life. I am pretty quiet and stealthy really.

    Camping on Sunday is a controversial issue. Our stake did not allow it. To do some serious camping we waited for school breaks. WHen MIke was a boy his LDS troop camped on Sunday, They had a light day, as far as work; partook of the Sacrament, and had a couple of talks. He had wonderful memories of those times. As far as what to do about Flash, it is a problem. He will just have to be out of town.

    John- at the time, Mike was nice. I am nice now, but not happy how he was treated in life.

  27. If you value the scouting program more than mutual, even a well-run LDS troop will generally be inferior to a good non-LDS troop. First, LDS scouts and leaders are essentially conscripts, meaning some percentage aren’t going to be happy to be there. Second, the church has effectively dismantled the “troop method” by breaking the boys up by age — 11-year-old scouts being in primary should never meet with mutual-age scouts, and the Scout troop, Varsity team, and Venturer crew are effectively completely independent. The budget issues and prohibitions on fundraising are huge, and really limit what you can do. Last, mutual activities constantly interrupt what should be a weekly pattern.

    On the other hand, the church version brings scouting to a group of people who’d never otherwise experience it. It molds itself to kids who simply aren’t ever going to be eagle scouts and still gives them some of the experiences that are so valuable in scouting.

    And, I’m not convinced a little “Lord of the Flies” is necessarily all bad, either.

    I’m currently serving as a scoutmaster, which is my just dessert for arguing (while I was in the bishopric) that the church ought to divorce itself from BSA entirely. I’ve since repented. I love this calling, I’m well-suited to it, and it’s clear I’m doing some good. It also takes a tremendous amount of time to do right.

  28. Martin- I am glad you found your way from the “dark side” into the “light” of scouting. 🙂 I agree whole-heartily with what you have said, except the bullying part. The line of bullying is different for everyone. For example, I have two sisters, and all three of us were in the same YW program. I had a wonderful experience, they did not. They were both victims of “mean girl” tactics. One sister has been able to put it out of her mind, but the other, in her forties, still cries when she talks about her young women experience. We loose so many members because of bullying including children, teens and even adults. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a fraternity.

  29. I was Camp Director of the LDS Scout Camp held each summer at the Ten Mile River Scout Reservation in Narrowsburg N.Y. It involved LDS Scout troops in the Newburgh NY, and New Jersy stakes. We had many challenges such as two hour commutes into NYC, returning too late to have proper evening 11-year old or older Scout meetings.

    The solution: hold meetings on Saturday afternoon (when we weren’t on the monthly campout). The lack of girls and basketball allowed the boys to function properly as a troop (wearing their uniforms, focusing on advancement, etc.) If they wanted to shoot hoops, the YM presidency had responsibility for those who had that interest during the weekday evening meeting.

    My experience with building a viable LDS troop was to volunteer as a Cubmaster in the local Presbyterian Church troop. I would then invite the well-behaved Cubs to attend our LDS Scout Troop. At one time one-half of our troop were non-members. The non-member fathers attended all the monthly campouts, as well as the week-long LDS Scout Camp. (We had three baptisms as a result.) One non-LDS father even became the Council President!

    My sons’ experience with non-LDS troops was not good. At this age, off-color jokes, girly magazines, etc. were prevalent at meetings and the Council’s Summer Camp. And the quality of the merit badge instruction was not as rigorous as at the LDS Scout Camp. I do not recommend non-LDS troops in New Jersey – perhaps your state might be different.

  30. I have seen some back and forth on this, but my perception is that a LDS scouting program prohibited from conducting fundraisers is a dead scouting program, as in no ward has a sufficient budgetary allowance to cover the cost.

    My first reaction to the proposition that LDS scout troops shouldn’t have fundraisers (which was the policy where I lived a few years ago) is that clearly someone doesn’t want this program enough to actually pay for it, or let anyone else pay for it either.

  31. R Biddulph- Great ideas! It is wonderful the New Jersey area has embraced the scouting vision and has run with it. I really like the idea for LDS troops to be the place for go-to-scouting. Since our YM program is scouting, this is the perfect opportunity to spread goodwill in our communities.

    I agree Mark D. – Camping is a required MB with 21 campouts, along with either hiking or swimming or biking; there is no way to get these MBs without spending some money, so the end result would be cheating. The boys read the requirements and know they did not do all of them. I think it is better not to do scouting at all, than to teach shoddy morals.

  32. @MarkD – Regarding This
    “no ward has a sufficient budgetary allowance to cover the cost.”

    That issue was solved back in 2004 and announced as follows:

    “2004 Change in Church Budget Guidelines: Local Unit Budget Allowance Increase

    In April 2004 the Presiding Bishopric announced a change in the formula for calculating the amount of budget funds allocated to Church units:
    The local unit budget allowance is being increased to help wards and stakes fund activities for children, youth, and young single adults. . . . The increase in the local unit budget allowance is intended to fund activities more effectively and to relieve the financial burden on families.

    With this increase, fund-raising activities should be substantially reduced or eliminated.

    Stake presidents should be sensitive to the financial needs of wards and ensure that they have adequate funds to support a broad scope of youth activities such as: . . . Cub Scout day camp and overnight camps for 11-year-old Scouts. . . . Youth weekly activities, Summer camps, Boy Scout awards, Duty to God and Young Womanhood Recognition – Combined youth activities. . . . Athletic programs and events.”

    We learn that additional funds have been allocated so that “fund-raising activities should be substantially reduced or eliminated.”

    So, it seems like the Church intends for fund raising to NOT be the preferred policy.
    In support of that intent, extra funds are allocated to the cause.

    To clarify, the LDS-BSA relationship office released the following…

    “Stakes and wards should fund all youth activities, including Scouting, from the budget allowance.

    If budget allowance funds are insufficient, young men may individually earn their own money for the cost of one annual camp. Annual day-camp experiences for Cub Scouts also qualify as annual camps.

    If budget allowance funds are insufficient and young men are unable to individually earn enough for the one annual camp, as a last resort, they may hold group fund-raising activities.”

    From “Scouting and the Church” by
    LDS Relationships Office – Boy Scouts of America
    15 West South Temple, Suite 1070 ldsbsa.org

    We also have the following from the latest Handbook of Church Instruction at lds.org.
    “Stake and ward budget funds should be used to pay for all activities, programs, and supplies.”

    That’s the primary instruction, what should be the foremost the goal of every ward.

    If those allocated funds aren’t available for Camp, wouldn’t one want to ask why?

    What’s also interesting is that the second instruction from the church seems to be universally ignored.
    “If the ward budget does not have sufficient funds to pay for the following activities, leaders may ask participants to pay for part or all of them:”

    To handle camp funding in harmony w/ Church Policy, fund-raising would be last ditch exception. It would be avoided as often as possible, never pursued as a first option.


  33. The ward that I’m currently in focuses so much people-energy and people-resources on scouting and youth (boys and girls) that it seems like other programs suffer a bit.

    However, the priority does seem correct. Of all the missions of the church, raising up the youth to be the next generation of adults is the most important. If an organization or soceity fails to do that, that organization or society is doomed. All it would take is one lost generation for the church to fall apart.

    When I was a ward executive secretary, a bishop often repeated that explicitly. His 2nd priority was home-teaching. If those two things are done right, then everything else has a much better chance of falling into place.

  34. Noah V, that’s just my perception from experience in relatively run of the mill Wasatch Front wards. As far as I can tell – and I have been ward or financial clerk more than once, none of the auxillaries are spending money on excessive or unusual activities.

    Both the Scouts and sometimes this YM/YW in general do raise additional funds to support the cost of Scout Camp or whatever. Around here it is a flag program. Relatively tiny donation per family to have flags placed in front of their homes on national holidays. In other units it has been “Friends of Scouting”, which hasn’t worked quite as well.

    I completely agree that it would be far better if units didn’t need to do this, but most of them apparently feel they do. If it was a hard rule, I am sure that enough economies could be found in existing programs, but apparently it would be difficult.

  35. MarkD: Our ward seems to parallel yours, right down to the flag thing.

    I wouldn’t say there was a “Hard Rule”; but I would say there are Clear Guidelines.

    First: Pay for Camp with the funds that the Church has allocated to the stakes for that purpose.

    Second: If some unforeseen event has depleted the allocated funds, then the Youth would take upon themselves to earn their own camp funds.

    Third: – The Last Resort – After the above two options have been exhausted –
    a single fund-raising event can be considered to supplement the funds from the above two options.
    As this 3rd option is clearly labeled an Exception, it seems the Church expects it to not occur regularly.

    However, my personal observations are that many Youth Leaders lack interest in this Guideline.
    They simply prefer to dedicate the Youths’ time to fund-raising. To that end they will ignore or carefully reinterpret any Church Direction that might interfere with their desire to fund-raise.

    Again, this is only what I’ve personally witnessed for the last decade or so. I can’t speak to what most other wards do. I’d be curious to know, however.


  36. I have never seen any unit anywhere (in decades anyway) dedicate any substantial amount of youth time to fund raising. Friends of Scouting fund raising was done by adults. I have seen a service auction once, and of course placing flags takes some time on certain national holidays, but other than that, essentially nothing.

    I completely agree with the proposition that member tithing contributions ought to be adequate to fund these programs without any other contributions. It is a bit of a disgrace to be asking for more contributions in addition to tithing and fast offerings. So I hope someday this will get straightened out so that units don’t need to do this kind of secondary fund raising at all.

  37. It may be that fund raising hasn’t been necessary, in most wards that have chosen to utilize it.

    Lately, I’ve read a number of forum posts about wards fund raising. It really seems to me that folks aren’t evaluating whether it’s appropriate or not. Certainly Church Policy isn’t part of the discussions; except from the few who respect this Church Policy.

    Unless I’m mistaken, it’s a classic People-Do-Whatever-They-Want-To-Do issue.
    Maybe the most common one we face.

    It’d be really groovy if we didn’t rationalize the smorgasbord approach to the Gospel.

  38. Thank you Noah Vail for taking the time to share the budget information. A huge blessings of having access to the handbook on line so we can all know what the guidelines are. The guidelines sound very reasonable to me. I do think the boys should have to work to pay for some of the expense. An important lesson for all the youth is nothing is free and to appreciate what things cost.

    Bookslinger- I like your wards approach to the youth. It seems to me it would be easier to keep kids in the church thru fun and meaningful youth programs, rather than try to reclaim them as adults.

  39. Consider the case of international LDS scouts. It is rare to find church based scouting outside of the United States and Canada so an LDS youth wishing to take part in scouting must do so with in the wider community. Another interesting feature of international scouting is that in many nations scouting is co-educational this mean that not only will LDS boys find themselves working with girls in their patrols but that LDS girls may also be scouts as well.

    Working out how all this fits into the current Duty to God and Young Womanhood awards is sometime difficult I have started to address the issues at https://sites.google.com/site/intldsscouts/

  40. It is so true. So many members of the church will suffer with mediocrity because they are just so nice….but if there isn’t a good scouting program in the ward (totally dependent on the scoutmaster and his organization) it is fine to seek out a good program elsewhere. A friend of mine found a so called “city troop” led by an LDS scoutmaster. His boy just got home from a mission in Argentina and is up at the Y. Fantastic young man.

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